On May 26, 2015, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) delivered a ruling to end the secondary teachers' strike in Peel, Durham and Rainbow district school boards. As a result, Peel secondary schools reopened to students and staff on May 27, 2015.
To help respond to questions we have received from the public about the OLRB decision, below are commonly asked questions and answers created using excerpts from the OLRB ruling. If you would like to view the entire OLRB decision, visit http://www.peelschools.org/Documents/OLRB%20Decision--26May2015.pdf.
Why are there local and central negotiations?
In April 2014, the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act (SBCBA) was passed in provincial legislature. The act created, for the first time, a two-tiered bargaining structure in school boards' collective bargaining in Ontario.
The SBCBA creates clearly separate and distinct tiers of bargaining and processes for each of them. It is this structure of the act that dictates that strikes on one of the two paths are unlawful in respect of bargaining on the other.
Excerpted from paragraph 56 of the OLRB ruling
During local negotiations, who approved OSSTF District 19 proposals?
All of the local proposals were to have been approved by provincial OSSTF before they could be tabled. If there was a dispute about anything being bargained locally between OSSTF District 19 and the Peel board, the final decision was made by provincial OSSTF, not the local.
Excerpted from paragraph 68 of the OLRB ruling
Is class size being bargained at the central, provincial table?
Yes. Under the SBCBA, class size was identified as a provincial item and is being negotiated at the central table. As indicated in the OLRB ruling, there is no dispute that class size is an agreed-upon central issue to be bargained at the central table.
Excerpted from paragraph 69 of the OLRB ruling
Do the Peel board and OSSTF District 19 acknowledge that class size is a provincial issue?
During the OLRB hearing, the president of provincial OSSTF indicated that he wished to move class size from the central table to the local table. He also stated that moving class size from the central table to the local tables had been discussed a number of times throughout central bargaining. However, this was never agreed to under the provisions of the Memorandum of Settlement (MOS) that would allow it, nor has it been the subject of any subsequent application to the OLRB under section 28 of the SBCBA. The issue of class size was clearly raised as an issue on the picket line during the local strikes.
Excerpted from paragraph 70 of the OLRB ruling
Did local issues appear on local strike picket signs?
In his ruling, Chair Bernard Fishbein stated that, "What is somewhat startling is that, among all the photographs of picketing presented to me, there were no picket signs that identified any substantive local issues."
Excerpted from paragraph 71 of the OLRB ruling
Were picket signs carried by teachers statements of individual opinion?
Individual Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) members may have expressed an opinion on, or expressed general frustration about central issues or central bargaining with respect to picket signs used, during the evidence, it became clear that all placards and pickets were pre-approved by OSSTF.
Excerpted from paragraph 72 of the OLRB ruling
Were picket signs monitored?
The OSSTF evidence presented during the OLRB hearing was that the picket lines were supervised and that any offensive picket signs (or signs "contrary" to the strike) would be removed.
Excerpted from paragraph 73 of the OLRB ruling
What type of messages did provincial OSSTF provide its members to use to respond to questions about bargaining?
OSSTF Communications and the Political Action Department created a fact sheet for their members to be used when speaking to the public. The fact sheet included the following messages:
Issue 1—The Bargaining Process
- We have been without a contract since August 2014.
- Our last "contract" was imposed by legislation in the fall of 2012 (Bill 115); collective bargaining did not take place during that time.
- There has not been a secondary school strike in over 16 years in Ontario.
Issue 2—Local-specific Issues
- Bargaining with school boards has been slow or non-existent. School boards continue to put forward strips that undermine the teachers' ability to teach.
Issue 3—Class Size
- Boards want to remove class size caps for all secondary courses.
- More students in a classroom would mean less time for individual attention for each student.
- Larger class sizes have been shown to have a direct negative impact on student achievement.
Issue 4—Let Teachers Teach
- Teachers use their time flexibly before school, at lunch and after school to help students. Boards want to take that flexibility away.
- Boards want more control over how teachers use their preparation time and this would give principals total freedom to assign teachers to duties that are unrelated to their classroom work; this would further take time away from teachers to support students and to volunteer for extra-curricular activities.
Issue 5—Ministry and Board Initiatives
- Teachers already spend too much time on multiple Ministry of Education and Board initiatives. This takes valuable time away from working with students.
There can be no dispute that pursuant to the Memorandum of Settlement (MOS), Issues 3, 4 and 5 are central bargaining issues.
Excerpted from paragraph 74 of the OLRB ruling
Were the strikes a provincial OSSTF strategy all along?
Many factors would point to the local strikes being caused due to impasse at the central table. On April 17, 2015, just days before the first local strike commenced at Durham District School Board, provincial OSSTF issued a news release that stated, "An impasse at the central table pushes us closer to additional strike action at boards across the province."
Excerpted from paragraph 76 of the OLRB ruling
Were the local issues really enough to go on strike in Peel?
The evidence during the hearing disclosed little or no communication between the districts on strike and their members about the actual local issues in dispute in bargaining. No set of local proposals was disseminated to the members in any striking district. This is quite the contrast to what was shared with members about central bargaining issues.
Provincial OSSTF reviewed all issues at the central table and the positions of the Crown, the Ontario Public School Boards' Association and OSSTF District 19. In one of the negotiation updates to the OSSTF-Peel bargaining unit, it described the central issues as "far-reaching and leave little of importance to be discussed at the local level."
Excerpted from paragraph 77 of the OLRB ruling
OSSTF claims the Peel District School Board was not taking negotiations seriously. Is this true?
During the hearing, OSSTF asserted that the school boards were not responsive to timely bargaining dates. While it is true that the local school boards did not immediately agree to dates for negotiating in the quantity and with the quick readiness that the OSSTF at the three striking school boards, wished, at none of the boards did the OSSTF appear to be willing to recognize that the boards' bargaining teams consisted of a number of people, making mutually convenient dates difficult to secure.
The Peel board met 11 times with OSSTF-Peel prior to the strike date—about the same number of times that the board and federation would have met in the past to negotiate a full agreement.
Excerpted from paragraph 78 of the OLRB ruling